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Health

INTRODUCTION


New Zealand's public health system is good by world standards.
Comprehensive life-long medical care is available to everyone. All essential health care is provided free through the public health system. This means that while some routine services, such as visits to local doctors and dentists, have to be paid for, more costly services, such as hospital treatment are, with minor exceptions, available free to all New Zealand citizens or residents.

PUBLICLY FUNDED HEALTH SERVICES INCLUDE:

  • Free public hospital treatment
  • Free treatment at public hospital 24 hour Accident and Emergency (A&E) clinics
  • Subsidies on prescription items
  • Subsidised fees for visits to general practitioners (GPs)
  • Subsidised fees for visits to physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths when referred by a GP
  • Free or subsidised health care for those suffering from acute or chronic medical conditions
  • No charge for most laboratory tests and x-rays, except at privately operated clinics
  • No charge for health care during pregnancy and childbirth, unless provided by the private medical sector
  • No charge for GP referrals to a public hospital for treatment
  • Free prescription medicines for all public hospital patients
  • Subsidies for children under six for visits to the doctor and for prescriptions
  • Free breast screening for women aged between 45 and 64.
    Your first point of contact with the health system will probably be your GP (General Practitioner), also known as your family doctor. New Zealand has about 3,200 GPs. These are located in almost every city, suburb and town throughout the country. Local GPs are listed in The White Pages

    WHERE TO FIND HEALTH SERVICES

    General Practitioners (family doctors), Specialists, After Hours and other Medical Centres are listed in The White Pages.
    Public and Private Hospitals, Residential Care Centres, after Hours Pharmacists, Registered Nurses and Midwives and Specialist Clinics are listed in The White Pages
    Physiotherapists, Dentists, Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Opticians, Pharmacists and Natural Therapists are listed under their respective sections in the Yellow Pages
    Service Providers

    GENERAL PRACTITIONERS

    Registration

    registering with a GP is free and easy. Simply provide the doctor's receptionist with your address, phone number, and the names and ages of your family.
    You can choose which GP to register with, even if that doctor is not in your suburb. So, if you would prefer to deal with a female GP or a GP who shares your national or ethnic background, you are quite free to choose any doctor you wish. You are also free to change your GP at any time.

    Opening hours

    Most GPs are open from 8:00am-6:00pm – these are known as surgery hours. Some practices are also open one or two evenings a week, and sometimes on Saturday mornings.

    Emergencies

    In emergencies, most GPs will either provide an immediate appointment or make home visits – sometimes referred to as house calls – any time during the day or night.

    Medical examinations

    You have the right to have a friend or support person with you during medical examinations. Female patients may also request that a female nurse or other female staff member be present during examinations by a male nurse or doctor. Routine services such as cervical screening, blood pressure checks, and immunisation are often conducted by the GP's Practice Nurse.

    COSTS

    The Government partly subsidises the cost of GP care for some patients, while others pay the full cost of $45 to $60 a visit. Visits to a GP on the weekend or at night usually cost $20 to $30 extra. The Government pays $35 of the fee for children under six; many doctors do not charge a fee on top of this, which means the visit costs you nothing. The subsidy for children aged 6-17 years is $15. If you are a beneficiary, on a pension, a student, or on a low income, you may be eligible for a Community Services Card. This entitles adults to a $15 and children over six to a $20 subsidy on GP visits. Similar subsidies are available with a High Use Health Card for people with conditions requiring frequent medical care.

    General practitioner visits
    Age Group Cost
    Adults $45-$60
    6-17 year olds $20
    Children under 6 Free
    Weekend and evening appointments may cost $20-$30 extra.


    SPECIALISTS AND PRIVATE HEALTH SERVICES

    Should you require specialist medical care, you will need a 'referral' from your GP. If you prefer a private specialist you (or your insurer) will be required to pay all fees.
    The public specialist health system is free, but you may be put on a waiting list depending on the status of your condition relative to other patients.

    HOSPITALS

    New Zealand has 85 public hospitals, including some with specialised facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities. Free comprehensive service with minor exceptions, such as some kinds of cosmetic surgery, hospital treatment is provided free of charge. Nobody can be refused emergency care because they cannot pay. If they are not a New Zealand resident, they may have to pay for some services. Waiting times for surgery vary from hospital to hospital. If your case is urgent, you will be put on an urgent waiting list.

    Interpreting services

    Most of the bigger public hospitals have an interpreter service for patients whose first language is not English, but patients can use family members or friends as interpreters if they wish. Some areas offer an interpreter service free of charge.

    Ambulance services

    Ambulances are provided by non-profit, community-based services in most parts of the country. They may make a part-charge of up to $70 to help with running costs.

    Maternity Care and Child Health



    MATERNITY CARE

    The care needed during pregnancy and childbirth is free. This covers everything from the diagnosis of pregnancy to pre- and post-natal care for mother and baby. You can choose to have your baby at home, although most babies are born in hospital. There is no charge for hospital stays, which generally last from two to five days. Women who have miscarriages are also cared for without charge. Approved abortions are free.

    Midwives

    most women are cared for throughout their pregnancy and at the birth by an independent midwife, though some women choose a local maternity hospital, or a GP who provides maternity care. If women need specialist care they can choose to be referred to a free hospital clinic or to a private specialist.

    Specialist care

    Should your family doctor, or a midwife, refer you to specialist services within the public system, these will be provided free of charge. If you choose a private specialist for your maternity care, you will have to pay all fees. Further information is available from any GP or Midwifery Centre in The White Pages. A Maternity Helpline is also available, freephone: 0800 686 223 (0800 MUM2BE) or visit www.everybody.co.nz/pregnancy

    Family planning

    It is common for Family Planning Services to be provided by GPs before pregnancy and by midwives after the birth of the child. Most towns also have Family Planning Association clinics which provide advice to single and married people, regardless of whether they are parents or not. The Government helps with the costs of these services which are provided free of charge to people less than 22 years and to holders of Community Services Cards.

    CHILD HEALTH

    Many health services for children are free. These include immunisation against serious diseases, regular eyesight and hearing checks at school, and visits to the doctor. Basic dental care is also free while children are at school.

    Well Child Care Service

    Well Child is a free service designed to ensure that parents receive support in all aspects of their child's development. Assistance is provided through programmes on:
  • Health Education and Health Promotion
  • Health Protection and Clinical Assessment
  • Family Care and Support.
    Information is available from GPs and local Medical Centres, at Well Child Care Service or freephone: 0800 686 223 (0800 MUM2BE)

    Plunket Society

    The Plunket Society provides free care for mothers and babies. This includes child health and development checks, and parenting advice. You can either arrange for home visits by a Plunket nurse, or visit one of the many clinics located throughout the country. Plunket also has a car seat rental service which provides safety restraints for babies and small children. The use of car seats and safety restraints for children and babies is compulsory by law.

    Freephone: 0800 933 922, 24 hours, seven days a week, or visit
    www.plunket.org.nz


    Private Health Care


    Many New Zealanders have elected to take out private health insurance because it provides access to private hospitals for the immediate treatment of non-urgent conditions.

    The network of private hospitals and clinics provides a range of services that include recuperative care, elective procedures, and general surgical procedures through to specialist procedures such as cardiothoracic operations. There are also private radiology clinics and testing laboratories.

    Several insurance companies offer a range of health policies – from basic care to fully comprehensive cover. Policy premiums vary widely. Even if you do have private health insurance, you are still entitled to free public health services which cover all accident and emergency care.

    Health insurance companies are listed in the Yellow Pages under 'Insurance – Medical'.

    Other Health Care

    DENTAL CARE

    Routine dental checks are provided free for all children through school clinics. Free dental treatment is also available if requested. However, many families prefer dental work to be undertaken by a private dentist. The Government's Dental Benefits Scheme aims to cover the cost of this type of care for teenagers aged 13 to 18. But involvement in this subsidised scheme is voluntary and many dentists prefer not to participate. There are also restrictions on the types of dental care available. To obtain this free service you must register with a dentist who subscribes to the scheme.

    COST

    The cost of emergency dental care is subsidised for people on low incomes. Some public hospitals also have dental departments that provide low-cost services to outpatients.

    Except for the treatment of children under 18, dentists do not receive a government subsidy. Their charges vary widely and are generally higher than those charged by GPs. Dentists are listed in the Yellow Pages. Fluoridated water has been adopted as a standard dental health practice in most parts of New Zealand.

    Dentist Standard check-up Cost: $50 - $90

    PERSONAL HELP AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

    Mental health

    Generally, mental health care is provided by public hospitals, but some community-based services are also available. Private counselling services are also available but these are generally not subsidised and costs must be met in full. However, free counselling is available at most secondary schools and tertiary educational institutions.

    SERVICES FOR SENIOR PEOPLE

    Assistance is available for those aged 65 or over who need help at home or may need to move to a rest home or hospital. This is provided on the basis of a 'needs assessment'. Services include home support, caregiver services and 24 hour residential care. The level of government subsidy varies according to individual circumstances.
    For further information about rest homes visit ElderNet. To access state funded care at home, you will need to contact your District Health Board and ask about having a Needs Assessment Service Coordination (NASC) agency complete a needs assessment.

    PRESCRIPTIONS

    GPs do not dispense medicines directly. However, they do provide written prescriptions or scripts (orders for medicine). These are dispensed by registered pharmacists. Usually your GP will direct you to a particular pharmacist, but you are also free to choose your own. There are plenty of outlets to choose from, since most of the bigger shopping centres include several retail pharmacies. Although you are free to present your prescription at any pharmacy, repeat prescriptions can be obtained only from the pharmacy that issued your first prescription. Otherwise, you will need to obtain a new prescription from your GP.

    Standard costs

    Adult New Zealanders pay between $5-$15 per prescription item for up to 20 items a year. If you or your family use more than 20 prescriptions, in most circumstances, further items are free. Prescription medicine for children under six is free. Community Services Card and High Use Health Card holders pay only $3 per item for most subsidised medicines. However, if there is a manufacturer's premium, this is charged in all cases, even when the prescription is "free" or heavily subsidised. Non-subsidised items are charged at full cost.

    Non-prescription medicines

    Pharmacists are trained to give advice on medicines and on some health problems. They can also sell medicines that do not need a prescription. Pharmacists do not usually charge for their advice.

    After hours service

    If you need urgent medicine outside normal shopping hours, go to an Urgent Pharmacy. These are open until 10:00pm or 11:00pm. You will find them listed under 'Urgent Pharmacies' in The White Pages.

    COSTS
    Subsidised prescriptions
    Age Group Cost
    Adults $15 maximum
    Children $10 maximum


    ACCIDENT INSURANCE

    All residents are covered by government-run accident insurance.
    The scheme is managed by the
    Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and covers the full range of personal injuries. This includes injuries suffered at work, at home or during sports or other leisure activities. Claims may also be made for personal injury caused by a medical mistake or error, sexual assault or abuse, and some work-related conditions such as Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS). In New Zealand, you cannot sue anyone for compensatory damages if you are injured. Instead, ACC helps to pay for the cost of your care.

    All accident victims are entitled to free hospital treatment. ACC also subsidises all other types of treatment involving accident-related injuries, as long as the treatment is provided by registered health professionals. The patient usually pays a part-charge for the treatment.

    If your injury stops you from working, ACC pays weekly compensation, usually based on 80% of your weekly income before tax. It can also help with residential nursing care, home help and childcare, as well as subsidising transport and training costs while you recover. In some cases involving permanent physical impairment, compensation, or 'lump sum', financial payments are also made.

    PATIENT RIGHTS

    All patients have certain rights when receiving a health or disability service. These rights are:
  • To always be treated with respect
  • To not be discriminated against, pressured or taken advantage of
  • To services that promote dignified and independent lives
  • To be treated with care and skill and receive correctly administered treatment
  • To medical staff who listen to their patients and communicate clearly
  • To an interpreter if required
  • To a clear explanation of their medical condition and the types of treatment available
  • To an honest description of the risks and costs as well as the benefits of a proposed treatment
  • To ask questions and receive competent answers
  • To make their own decisions
  • To change their minds if they have already said "yes" or "no" to a course of treatment
  • To refuse to participate in teaching or research
  • To have a support person present at most times
  • To register a complaint.
    These rights also apply to patients taking part in teaching or research.

    HELP FOR PEOPLE ON LOW INCOMES OR WITH HIGH HEALTH NEEDS

    Community Services Card

    People on low incomes may be eligible for a Community Services Card, which entitles them to higher government subsidies on visits to their family doctor and the purchase of prescription items.

    High Use Health Card

    The High Use Health Card is for individuals who visit their family doctor 12 times or more in a 12 month period for an ongoing illness. This card also accesses higher subsidies on visits to the family doctor and on prescription items. For more information about the High Use Health Card, talk to your General Practitioner.

    Pharmaceutical Subsidy Card

    If you or your family have paid for 20 prescription items from 1 February in a given year, you may be eligible for a Pharmaceutical Subsidy Card. This card can be obtained from your local chemist/pharmacy.

    HEALTH LINKS


    GOVERNMENT WEBSITES / FREEPHONES


  • Accident Compensation Corporation
    Provides information on accident insurance scheme payments. Freephone: 0800 101 996

  • Health and Disability Commissioner
    An independent agency dealing with patient rights.
    Freephone: 0800 112 233

  • HealthEd
    Provides easy access to popular brochures on health matters.

  • Ministry of Health
    Information on all areas of the public health system. Links to District Health Board websites – these outline the services available in your area.
    Freephone: 0800 367 8473 (0800 ENQUIRE)

  • Maternity care
    Freephone: 0800 686 223 (0800 MUM2BE)

  • The Plunket Society
    The Plunket Society provides free care for mothers and babies.
    Freephone: 0800 933 922 24 hours, seven days a week

  • WellChild Care Service
    Free service providing support on all aspects of a child's development.
    Freephone: 0800 686 223

  • Work and Income
    Information about all benefits and allowances, including the Residential Care Subsidy and the Disability Allowance.
    Freephone: 0800 559 009

  • Community Services Card
    Freephone: 0800 999 999
    In an emergency, dial 111
    To find hospitals, look under the 'Hospitals & other health service providers' section in the front of the White Pages of your telephone book.
    To find a doctor, look under the 'Registered Medical Practitioners & Medical Centres' section in the front of the White Pages of your telephone book.

    GENERAL HEALTH SITES



  • Asian Healthline
    Public health information service providing free advice in Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean. Available only in the Auckland region.
    Freephone:
    0800 375 069 (Cantonese)
    0800 375 068 (Mandarin)
    0800 375 067 (Korean)

  • Arthritis Foundation of New Zealand Inc.

  • New Zealand CCS Inc.
    Services available for the disabled and their families.

  • Deaf Association of New Zealand Inc.

  • Diabetes New Zealand
    Freephone: 0800 342 238

  • Eldernet
    Provides information on services available to the elderly, including comprehensive information on retirement housing and residential and hospital care.

  • Everybody
    Overview of the health and social security system, and lots of consumer health information.

  • Healthpages
    Online directory of health professionals. Advanced search allows you to locate a doctor speaking your first language.

  • Government breast and cervical screening programmes.
    Freephone: 0800 729 729

  • IHC New Zealand Inc.
    Services available for the intellectually handicapped and their families.

  • Presbyterian Support
    Community services and counselling.

  • Parents of Vision Impaired (NZ) Inc.
    Freephone: 0800 312 019

  • The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind
    Freephone: 0800 243 333

  • Waitemata District Health Board
    A list of services provided on the North Shore.

  • Women's Health services
    Outline of women's health services and how to access them.

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